At the beginning of most relationships, we just find the ordinary gift for birthdays and holidays so that can start to feel like a chore.
But a gift-giving mentality becomes even more important as a relationship evolves — and some of the very best presents can’t be wrapped. It is the thought or gesture that we have come straight from the heart and can transform a good partnership into a truly great one. Since it’s the time of year when presents are on everyone’s mind, it’s the perfect opportunity to transform your relationship from good to great — or from great to greater — by giving your partner these six very important gifts.
Gift 1: Learn Your Partner’s “Love Language”. Each of us wants to feel be loved by our partner and wants our partner to feel loved by us.Most of us grow up learning the emotional language of our parents. And we become confused and upset when our partner doesn’t understand us.To get past those miscues, Chapman advises couples to identify what he calls their “love languages” and share them with each other. If you’re not sure which of the following five languages best describes you, take Chapman’s Love Language Quiz to figure out your type. He also suggests asking yourself what you most often demand of your spouse. “The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel the most loved,” he notes. Here are Chapman’s five love languages: One person, for example, may experience physical affection as love, while her partner experiences help with the household chores as the ultimate token of affection. They are, in essence, speaking different languages. “These miscommunications aren’t a matter of not having good intentions,” says Chapman. “They’re a matter of not touching the heart or emotions of the other person.
Gift 2: Pursue Passion. Passion often gets sidelined as a marriage becomes more established, but there are far-ranging benefits to bringing it back . For starters, tapping into passion helps us discover more about who we are, which allows us to share more of ourselves with our partner.In the meantime,when we are the object of our partner’s passion, it makes us feel desirable and desirous.Passion also improves relationships by making people more tolerant of one another. Because when we think our partner likes us, we are much more forgiving of grievances, and we’re also more tolerant of the inherent nicks and bruises of being in a relationship.
Gift 3: Crack Down on Criticism.Nothing can sink a relationship faster than unrelenting negativity.Because we found that successful relationships have a 5-to-1 ratio of positive interactions — compliments, loving glances, offers to help out — to negative gestures such as criticism and nagging.Whether you nag or simply turn your back when your partner is talking, these negative gestures erode your sense of togetherness. Researchers have even found that eye rolling after a spouse’s comment can be a strong predictor for divorce.
To bring your interaction ratio in line with Gottman’s recommendation, try to become more aware of how often you’re criticizing your spouse. One way to do this is to create some kind of lighthearted stopgap when you notice critical commentary — put a coin in a jar, or create a silly code word to let your partner know you’ve caught yourself (or her) in the act. Then try consciously focusing on each other’s strengths instead. Criticism will be naturally tamped down, and that will give each of you more opportunities to feel successful, appreciated and loved.
Accentuating the positive in your relationship doesn’t mean you should ignore tough issues. It’s just that you need to do it in an environment that’s fortified with positive feelings and exchanges.